Seeing the Value in Standard Work

Posted on June 7, 2012 by

One of the most fascinating aspects of process improvement is witnessing just how much variation exists in work processes. It is only when we do a “go see” or walk a process and talk with staff that we recongnize it. In almost all cases, frontline staff are at the mercy of a non-specified process, and so are often left to “figure things out.”  What happens is that one operator might perform work entirely different from someone else. Moreover, this leads to wide variation in how long a step takes and to what level of detail it is completed. It can dramatically affect the ability of a team on a daily basis as workloads become unbalanced and outcomes inconsistent.

The Psych Services value stream team has begun to identify just how much variation exists in its core work. The current state mapping has revealed bottlenecks, rework, and other wastes in addition to the variation. More importantly, the team is beginning to understand how standard work can attack these wastes, simply by defining the best known process, eliminating non-value added activities, and agreeing on following it consistenly until it can be further improved. There is a tremendous power behind a team that sees standard work as critical to their success. Often times, there are misconceptions that standards and standard work constrain creativity or the artistry of what we do. But the real value lies in a team all performing its best known practice, having the right content, sequence, and timing of work in coordination. This creates a stable environment where improvements can be made, experiments tried, and in some cases deviations can be made when required. Standard work is developed and owned by the staff (including manager) who perform the work, as they are the experts, and are in the best position to improve it.